- Superb turbocharged engine, with unnoticeable turbo lag.
- Classy understated interior.
- Lots of options and standard luxury features.
- Low-end torque aplenty.
- Good ride quality even with Sport Package.
- Somewhat expensive for a Mexican-built 4-cylinder subcompact.
- Manual gearbox not as good as Acura's or BMW's.
- Rear legroom is a little tight for tall people.
- Some torque steer under hard acceleration.
- Excessive body roll for so-called sporty suspension.
Press Coverage :
The 2004 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T sedan and Jetta wagon are available in GLS trim, with the sedan also offering a GLI version. Minor but significant exterior changes combine to update the dynamic German style of the 2004 Volkswagen Jetta. Changes outside include new chrome treatment for the front grille and bumpers, aluminum side body moldings, re-designed taillights, and a sportier trunk-lid edge. Under the hood, Jetta sports a new engine cover. Standard equipment on all 2004 Jetta models includes power-assist rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes and all-season tires and full-size spare tire.
The $20,940 Volkswagen Jetta GLS sedan and $21,940 wagon models have 15-inch alloy wheels and anti-theft wheel locks standard. Standard is a 5-speed manual transmission, with optional 5-speed Tiptronic gearbox. The Jetta GLS 1.8 T optioned with a Sport Package gets 17-inch alloy wheels and Sport suspension for added performance-driving dynamics. The GLS models offer two, exciting new exterior colors: Spice Red and Wheat Beige. Jetta Wagon models also will be available in new Shadow Blue and Blue Graphite. Other popular colors available include Candy White, Black, and Reflex Silver. Metallic paint colors are available at no extra charge.
The $23,800 2004 Volkswagen Jetta GLI sedan sports newly-styled 18-inch BBS alloy wheels and a body kit as standard equipment. The GLI is also outfitted with smoked headlights and tail-lights, lowered sport suspension, Recaro seats, red brake calipers and a 6-speed manual transmission. Also new as standard for GLI, and available as an option on GLS models, is a Cold Weather Package featuring heated front seats and windshield washer nozzles. Colors include Blue Lagoon, Platimun Gray, black and red.
Inside, subtle additions to the 2004 Volkswagen Jetta interior include an enhanced instrument panel with new aluminum-plated instrument cluster rings that make the driver display information easier to read. The dashboard surface itself has a finely textured treatment. Jetta GLS models will feature new “Opera” velour fabric upholstery. All models also have a newly redesigned, convenient console cup holder. New as standard equipment in 2004 Jetta GLS models is an eight-speaker Monsoon® Sound System with amplifier. The Monsoon/Sunroof Package also includes a power tilt-and-slide, tinted-glass sunroof with pinch protection, sunshade and convenience closing using the power driver-door lock. Premium CD/AM-FM radios include newly added backlighting of selector buttons. A dealer-installed, six-disc CD changer mounted in the trunk/cargo area is available as an option on all models. Jetta GLS models also offer a Leather Package option that includes sporty leather-covered seat cushions, a leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake grip and a four-spoke, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel. In addition, this package adds heated front seats with adjustable lumbar support and heated windshield washer nozzles.
Standard-equipment safety features on the 2004 Volkswagen Jetta include front and side airbag supplemental restraints, as well as an advanced side-impact system called Side Curtain Protection™. This supplemental restraint system deploys airbag curtains from the roof liner to cover side windows for added protection of both front- and rear-seat occupants. The Jetta 1.8 T is standard- equipped with four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake pressure distribution. Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) full-time traction control is also standard. An Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP®) is available as an option on other 2004 Volkswagen Jetta models. ESP uses sensors to monitor driver input and vehicle dynamics and works in conjunction with the ABS and ASR to automatically aid control when the car is operated near performance limits. ESP is constantly engaged and works to counter over- and under-steer conditions for optimum control during even normal driving conditions. New for 2004 Jetta models is the available option of OnStar® Telematics.
All 2004 Volkswagens come with a standard four-year/50,000-mile (whichever comes first) bumper-to-bumper warranty, covering wear-and-tear items and adjustments during the initial 12 months or 12,000 miles of ownership, whichever occurs first. Additional coverage includes a five-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, corrosion perforation coverage for 12 years with unlimited mileage for all fully galvanized Volkswagen vehicles, and four years/50,000 miles of 24-hour roadside assistance.
By turning up the pressure in the Jetta's turbocharged and intercooled induction system, the 1.8-liter DOHC 20-valve four generates 180 horses and 174 pound-feet of torque versus 150 hp and 155 pound-feet in its previous Jetta installation. Just as important, the torque curve has an upper plateau roughly the size of Kansas, peaking at 1950 rpm and staying there all the way to 5000 rpm. This is the most powerful four ever offered by VW, and it makes the Jetta formidable in straight-ahead performance, a stout ally when the driver pulls out to pass and wants extra haste.
As the test began, the Jetta looked like the winner with its newfound vigor, exceptional build quality, excellent materials, quiet interior, and creamy ride quality. But when the roads developed kinks, our enthusiasm began to wane. We discovered the Jetta's supple ride was the result of soft springs and modest roll stiffness, which made its progress around the Hocking Hills loop and the Nelson track more adventurous than one might wish.
Whether it will get around corners as well is another question, because even with the Sport Luxury package, the Jetta delivers too much rock and roll for our tastes.
The new 4-banger called the 1.8T got the 3,000-pound test car moving quickly. There was a strong pull right from a standstill that set me back in the seat. The surge didn't fall off quickly, either, since the engine has a long, flat torque curve that runs from 1750 to 4200 revolutions per minute. The output comes on so cleanly, so smoothly, I suspect many drivers won't bother differentiating that this is a turbocharged engine, not a naturally aspirated one. VW officials describe the performance as something akin to what you'd get in 6-cylinder car. Yes, in the test drive, I zipped around city streets, making a real effort to stay within the speed limit. In passing moves on the highway, the Jetta didn't behave at all as if it only had four cylinders under the hood. I sprinted by folks easily.
Riders, however, notice the high rev sounds that accompany this performance. It's similar to what you get in the high-revving Honda and Toyota four cylinders with variable valve timing technology. Here, VW uses its 5-valves-per-cylinder technology to maximize engine performance. Three of the valves are for intake and two for exhaust. The Jetta's manual isn't as precise in its feel as I'd like. But even the Jetta's automatic is geared so it doesn't sap the engine performance.
But engines aren't the only noteworthy features of the Jetta. This front-wheel-drive sedan has the road feel of a downsized German touring car. The test car traversed curvy mountain roads with confidence and stuck to its line even in gutsy maneuvers. Body lean is minimized. I especially noticed, however, how forgiving the Jetta's suspension is. You might expect a car tuned for "driving enthusiasts" to be overly firm - harsh even. But the Jetta's front independent MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam axle configuration soaked up many of the sizable road bumps, and it did it with no fuss. Yet, the car felt well planted at all times. As a result, long drives - even in mountains or in less-than-exciting suburbs - left me energized, not fatigued. The Jetta's power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering responded well to driver commands. Note that front and rear brakes in the Jetta are the more expensive discs, and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard on all Jettas.
The Jetta interior has VW's firm seats that provide good support on long trips. And those of us who are of short stature are likely to find the Jetta one of the most accommodating cars for us. It comes standard with a height-adjustable driver seat. It operates via a lever that you just sort of crank. A steering wheel that not only adjusts up and down but also telescopes out and back is standard as well. And the dead pedal that helps you brace yourself in aggressive driving is well positioned, even for shorter drivers. But I kept bumping my hand into the high-mounted dual cupholder in the center of the dashboard. And headroom, front and rear, is less than you find in the latest small cars - the ECHO and Focus. I did enjoy the Jetta's one-touch, power up and down side windows for the front seats. But three adults in back sit very closely. The instrument cluster's lighting at night is the eye-catching, cool blue that's in the VW New Beetle. Trunk space of 13 cubic feet is about equal to that of the Focus sedan and Neon. Side airbags are standard in all Jettas.
1999-2001 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 1.8T
1,781 cc / 150 hp / 155 lb-ft / 2800-2900 lbs / 0-60 mph 8.2 sec.